Have you noticed, the past few days, while walking outside, the ground seemed a little more, crunchy (even in the areas without snow)? Perhaps you've noticed it looks as if the soil has been stirred up. These crazy temperatures and the vast amount of precipitation we've been having have created the ideal conditions for a phenomenon called Needle Ice!
Needle ice is a natural phenomenon which occurs when the temperature of the soil is above freezing and the surface temperature of the air is below freezing. The subterranean liquid water is brought to the surface via capillary action, where it freezes and contributes to a growing needle-like ice column.
While growing, they may lift or push away small soil particles. On sloped surfaces, needle ice may be a factor contributing to soil creep.
Next time you're out and the ground feels extra crunchy, look down, lift a few leaves, needle ice is a really beautiful phenomenon that only occurs here this time of year!
What an odd month it's been, I mean starting the new year with temperatures in the 50s then heading down into the negative degrees. It was quite a trying but beautiful month. Let's look back at how it changed...
Jan 1st 57° to 34°
Jan 8th 54° to 58°
Jan 9th 23°
Jan 13th 30° to 17° 3in snow
Jan 14th 7°
Jan 19th to 20th 10in snow (measured from the center of our backyard) 20° to 2°
Jan 21st 0°
Jan 30th -4°
Jan 31st -3° up to 9°
January 1st - Dundee Falls
Starting the new year with a hike (as per our tradition), the temperatures had started heading back down by the time we made it out to the falls. The witch hazel was still in bloom (one of the few cold weather bloomers around here).
January 7th - Walton Woods
At last the deer didn't chase me out of the woods and I was able to roam back to where the invasive bittersweet has thoroughly taken over a large section of woods (the section without the burning bush unfortunately). Although it creates a really great hiding bird habitat, the poor trees are being twisted and sinched in all sorts of uncomfortable ways. The garlic mustard was looking quite robust, as was the woodland sedge. Still clinging to a few of the shrubs, the berries of the burning bush were still holding tight.
January 8th - Barnes Preserve
Sometimes you go out not knowing what you'll find. This was one of those oddly warm days where I knew I needed to get out but didn't have any goal in mind (except to get to work shortly after the hike). I was plesantly surprised by not only very interesting berries, fungi, and lichens but also the appearance of the Eastern Comma Butterfly! They do overwinter here, often hiding under tree bark or among leaves. What a brilliant surprise though. :)
January 16th - Barnes Preserve
And just like that, we're thrown right back into winter (any Monty Python fans out there - "Winter changed into spring, spring changed into summer, summer changed into winter, and winter gave spring and summer a miss and changed back into fall"). This was the day the ice settled over everything overnight giving the snow that extra crunchy sound. The pileated was chattering at me this whole hike and near the hiker entrance the mocking bird was flashing its beautiful tail.
January 27th - Barnes
Really taking in the details. This trek my mission was to find true and false turkey tails for the previous post. Successful mission and a quite nice stroll. Also, I've finally landed on one location for the next "one year study" - the succession area from the monarch station looking down the short loop path. It'll be an interesting one to examine for years to come as succession is moving right along. This will also be the second bi-year (year one it's a low rosette, year two it grows quite large and blooms) for the queen anne's lace, I'm also hoping to monitor if it's as overwhelming in its fourth year as it was in its second year, we'll find out in August. Stay tuned!
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.